Screening of the general population in Iceland suggests that well under 1% have the virus that causes COVID-19. “This indicates that the virus is not moving at high speed through the society,” stated Þóra Kristín Ásgeirsdóttir, deCODE genetics’s communications officer. The Reykajvík-based company started screening for the virus that causes COVID-19 among the general population on Friday, March 13.
The screening carried out at deCODE genetics is on a voluntary basis, and there has been no shortage of individuals signing up to be tested. So far, out of 2,640 samples taken at deCODE genetics, 22 have tested positive for the virus. The Chief Epidemiologist is notified of all samples that test positive and follows up with contact tracing and further measures.
The screening carried out by deCODE is largely of individuals who are asymptomatic and have not been quarantined. The Icelandic healthcare system is carrying out testing on symptomatic individuals or others who are considered at high risk. Up to date statistics on the results of testing within the healthcare system are available on the Directorate of Health’s official COVID-19 website.
Iceland tests highest proportion of population
In the near future, deCODE is expected to screen around 1,000 individuals per day, and the Icelandic healthcare system at least 100. “In the coming days more results from testing in the general population will continue to elicit a much clearer picture of the actual spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Iceland,” a government press release states.
According to the press release, 3,787 individuals in Iceland had been tested for the virus out of a population of 364,000 as of yesterday. This is a higher proportion of the population than has been tested in any other country.
Screening could contribute to global response
Thorolfur Gudnason, Chief Epidemiologist, says that the data being collected provides valuable information. “There are strong indications that our efforts to contain the spread of the virus have been effective. About half of the diagnosed cases are from individuals who had been quarantined. Our focus is to protect those must vulnerable from contracting the virus, while trying to ensure that the overall spread of the virus remains slow. We are optimistic that the combined efforts to test a large part of the population will provide insights that can contribute to the world’s response to this pandemic.”
“It is amazing to see how the community is coming together as one to deal with this threat. Here at deCode people are working 24/7 to screen for and to sequence the virus. The screening tells us where the virus is and the sequencing how it differs between the places where it is and how it continues to mutate,” said Kári Stefánsson, CEO of deCode.